I have to admit, I stumbled into travel writing.
While I always thought it was a cool writing gig, I didn’t have a ton of travel experience—I’d been on a plane a handful of times and had only left the country twice, both on family vacations—so I figured I didn’t fit the bill.
Travel writing was an aspiration for me. But at the time I started working for myself, I certainly didn’t set out to become a travel writer.
Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a travel editor. I had apparently applied for a writing job with them (which I swear I didn’t remember doing) and they were interested in working together.
I know, scam alert.
But the company was real, the editor really worked for them and her email was official. They wanted me to do a test SEO re-write on one of their articles and they’d pay me via PayPal. No financial information would exchange hands.
As a new freelance writer who didn’t have anyone with a wad full of cash knocking down the door to pay her. So, I went for it.
Fast forward four years…
I’ve written about 100 pieces about travel, covering everything from cool destinations to what to wear when you travel. I’ve written for some HUGE websites and a few smaller ones. And I can tell you, I LOVE travel writing.
The best part about this whole story is that the random publication that took a chance on a girl with no experience is STILL a client.
I am living proof that you can legitimately make money writing about travel, even if you have no experience. So, if you’re wondering how to become a travel writer and get paid for it, this is the article for you.
What is travel writing?
Before we get started, let’s talk about what travel writing is. And, more importantly, what it isn’t.
One one hand, travel writing is the art of writing about people, places and things that are not in your own backyard—though there are writers in the travel vertical that specialize in places where they live. If you live in a unique place that sees visitors, then writing in-depth insider content could be a great path for you.
However, commercially speaking—where you can make steady travel writing-related income is more focused on the hows, whats and wheres of travel. That is, travel advice writing.
This tends to be where I work. Chances are you won’t find me writing a feature about taking an African safari fit with gorgeous photographs. But if you’re looking for a gal that can tell you the technical ins-and-outs of the best time to purchase a cheap plane ticket, that’s me.
Travel writing like every other niche is filled with sub-niches. It’s your job to carve out your own.
Travel writing is NOT…
- Getting paid to travel—While some BIG travel writers legitimately get paid to travel, most of us merely sell our experiences. That means no one hands me a check and says book a flight to Turkey, but I can get paid for writing about my experience of travelling.
- Writing about your family vacation—unless it was unique and amazing, no one wants to know that your father-in-law wore a banana coloured speedo on the beach or that your kids loved Mickey’s Toon Town.
- A huge paycheck—I know no writers that ONLY write travel content. Most operate like I do where one of our verticals or niches is travel but it certainly doesn’t make up our whole income.
- Easy to get into—From what I’ve gathered my experience of getting into the industry with no travel articles to my name and limited experience was a fluke. Most people rack up a whole blog’s worth of content or start in a different verticle and make a lateral move before they get paid to write about travel.
- Always a stable industry—If you asked me about job security last year I would have told you that people always travel so there’s always an appetite for content on it—2020 decided to prove that hypothesis wrong.
These realities are not meant to sway you from going down the travel writing path. If you really want it and you’re willing to work for it, chances are you can get there. Just don’t quite your day job tomorrow to start travel writing.
How to become a travel writer and get paid
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s dig into the meet of why you’re here. You’ve got at least some interest in becoming a travel writer and you’ve got no idea how to get there.
I’ve you’ve got a little patience, time and passion, I can teach you how to become a travel writer and get paid for it. But first, we’ll need to do a few things…
Start writing clips
My experience aside, you do actually need some past examples if you want to become a travel writer.
In fact, I left a little out of my story at the beginning. While I truly don’t recall applying for my first travel writing job, I do actually know why I got it and I didn’t have NO experience at all, just none in travel writing.
I’ve actually been a writer my entire career. I took my bachelor’s majoring in journalism, then my master’s and wrote in-house for government agencies and professional services firms all well-before I started freelancing.
And, while I didn’t have any travel writing experience, why I did have was a solid, demonstrable knowledge of search engine optimization. The original gig that I got was re-writing 50-something articles from an SEO perspective, after that was done I was moved to their regular writing team.
In fact, though I do write the odd piece that’s more pure travel, I’ve stuck it out on the marketing content side of travel writing because that’s what I love doing.
All this is to say that if you want to become a travel writer, you need to show them that you can do the job. You do that by producing travel clips. “Clips” for those of us just starting out are example pieces.
In most cases, you’ll want these clips to be published on someone else’s site—the bigger the better. But when you’re starting out, that’s less likely to be an option. With that in mind, there are two places I recommend testing out your writing skills:
- A shared revenue site where you can possibly earn a little side cash like Medium or Vocal
- Your own blog
To be honest, I recommend doing both.
There are some REALLY important things to keep in mind if you want to make money writing. You want to make sure that your content is:
- Error free
- Has a beginning, middle and end
- A genuine point
- Is unique
- Is built with SEO in mind (even writers who don’t specialize in marketing content NEED to know how to optimize articles)
I would also suggest that you pay special attention to creating good headlines. You can use CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer to help you out with that.
Get feedback on your writing
When I first started reaching out to prospective clients, it never occured to me to get feedback on my writing. As someone who’s been writing for my entire career, I should have known better. But, alas, I didn’t.
I wish I did.
I’ve learned a ton of things over the years, but there’s a few that I could have learned faster had I just asked. So, I humbly suggest that you get someone to give you feedback on your first few pieces BEFORE you start shipping them off and asking for work.
You do not have to ask a professional editor for feedback. A friend or family member will do. The point of it is to (a) double-check that you don’t have any crazy grammar or spelling mistakes, no matter how many times you look over something, things still get missed, and (b) that your content is engaging.
This step sounds A LOT scarier than it really is. I totally get not wanting to show people your work before you’re ready or you get paid—but as a professional writer, I can tell you this never goes away. So, slash that ice right now.
Eventually, people are going to pour over your work. They’ll slash it to bits and deliver you the pieces in blood-coloured text, so you may as well start practicing receiving that feedback sooner rather than later.
Set up a writing business
I’m not going to dig too much into this topic in this particular article but I think it’s important to touch on. BEFORE you start making money for your writing, you really should look into the requirements of running a freelance business in your jurisdiction.
When you make an income from anything you need to pay taxes. When it’s an income that’s self-reported, there are additional responsibilities. And simply not paying taxes (even if you think they’re dumb) is a bad idea because it often results in having to pay more later on.
So, while I’m not a lawyer or accountant and you should speak to one if you have real questions, I highly recommend looking into what you need to do and report wherever you live.
You’ll also want to have:
- Some way to accept payment
- Some way to make invoices
- Some way to record income
For all of these things, I use Bonsai (which has a free trial so you can test it out). I really LOVE it and after ditching it and trying pretty much all of the recommended software out there, I eventually went back to Bonsai.
Finally, writers should have insurance. It’s not a thing we talk about a lot, but it is important. In my jurisdiction (Canada), this insurance is called errors and omissions insurance.
And, honestly, it’s not that expensive. I pay less than $350 a year for ALL of the insurance that covers my business which includes errors and omissions. If you have questions about insurance and what you should have, reach out to a lawyer or insurance professional. They’ll know what you need.
Find out which travel sites pay writers
Pretty much any outlet that has any semblance of a lifestyle section publishes travel articles. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can write there—many of these places have in-house staff that cover specific verticals—but it’s a good place to start.
With some pieces under your belt, it’s time to scope out travel writing opportunities. In 2020, with COVID, travel is not a big vertical. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find ANY work. It just means it’s harder.
There are some great resources where you can find work of all kinds, including travel. I recommend checking out:
Beyond looking at job boards, I can tell you a few places that might take travel writing. But it is really important that you take a peek at their guidelines and requirements before you submit a pitch. Here are a few places you can check out:
- Popsugar Voices
- Great Escape Publishing
- Matador Network
- GoWorld Travel Magazine
- Horizon Guides
- Verge Magazine
Please note: I do not write for or have any association with any of the above places at this time. I’ve never tried pitching them, so I don’t know their processes, how easy or hard they are or what they pay.
It’s also important for me to stop here quickly and tell you a hard-and-fast freelance writer’s rule: unless a publication specifically asks for already written pieces, submit only a pitch.
Write a thoughtful pitch and send it
Once you’ve found a few places that you’d like to submit your travel writing, start writing some pitches.
Pitches are essentially ideas for articles that will fit in with the publication you’re pitching. These ideas are more in-depth than simply dropping a title in an email and saying I want to write for you.
When you pitch, you want to define:
- A suggested title
- What you want to talk about
- What angle you’re going to take
- Who you are
- Why you should be the one to write about the piece and not anyone else
And don’t forget to include links to a few pieces of your sample work!
Pitching sucks. I STILL hate doing it. But it’s a part of freelance writing, so it’s something you’ll want to get rid of.
You’ll make mistakes when you pitch—seriously, I STILL do. So, write your pitch. Double-check it. Run it by someone if you have a confidant you trust. Then send it and move on.
If you haven’t heard anything from the publication in a week or two, it’s totally fair game to circle around and follow up. A simple, I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in this will do.
It’s also important to stop here again and say, do not submit the same pitch to multiple outlets. It’s VERY bad practice, reserved for times where you have no choice—for example, you have a very timely piece that needs to be published ASAP. If you’re a beginner freelancer, you’re probably not there yet.
Stick to one pitch per publication. If you don’t hear from then in a while, then you can move onto the next. In most cases, I’d give it 14 days, at least, but check their writer guidelines to see if they have a pre-determined time frame set out.
Rinse and repeat
This is the part of the article where I tell you that becoming a freelance travel writer can really suck at times. Most pitches you send will be rejected or ignored.
This is not a reflection on you or your work—unless your work sucks, then maybe it is. But in most cases, editor’s inboxes are STACKED with pitches. They only have so much room and budget to hire out freelance pieces.
So, if you don’t get a yes right away, that doesn’t mean that you’ll never become a travel writer. It just means you need to give it some time. Keep writing sample work and keep pitching. If you try enough times, someone says yes.
What other verticals go well with travel writing?
I said right at the beginning that relying on travel writing only to get paid is a mistake that most of us find out sooner rather than later. But if all you want is to become a travel writer, you might not have any ideas of what else you could write about without straying too far.
No problem, I can give you a few ideas.
In most cases, travel writing is more of a lifestyle topics. So, if you want to stretch your writing legs and do some more practice work (or get paid for more writing) you could try out another lifestyle vertical. Examples could include:
- Relationships and dating
- Product reviews
- Personal finance
Writing in other verticals can be a good way to back-door some paid, by-lined work that has a travel angle for your portfolio.
Almost all of the above verticals could have a travel association. For example, you could write about the next romantic place to visit for couples in love or the best makeup to pack in your carry-on bag without overloading your liquids allotment.
If you already have a regular gig writing in some other lifestyle vertical (or you get one before you start travel writing), you could always pitch a piece or two that has a travel angle to it and possible get a piece published that way.
What about writing guest posts?
A lot of people talk about using guest posts to boost your freelance writing career in the beginning—whether or not you’re aiming to become a travel writer. And I can tell you that while I don’t have a problem with it, I’ve never guest posted anywhere to gain followers or get a published piece.
There are A LOT of benefits with guest posting—which you can find by simply Googling them—but I’ve always had the mentality that if I’m going to write for free, I’m going to do it for me.
So, any piece that I might have guested has gone onto a blog of mine, my Medium profile or somewhere else where I could boost my own content output or possibly put money in my pocket.
By no means am I saying that guest posting is a bad idea. I don’t think that at all. I’m just not the one to tell you about how to do it or why you should because I’ve never done it myself. But if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.
How to know if travel writing is right for you
Becoming a travel writer is just like becoming a writer in any other vertical. It’s not right for everyone, even some of those that are passionate about it don’t find it to be a fulfilling freelance job.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you get into travel writing and decide that it’s simply not the vertical for you, then move onto the next. It’s OK to decide that you don’t want to do something, even if you’ve already started it.
I did a lot of personal and business finance writing earlier in my career only to find out it wasn’t my favourite thing in the world. There are definitely aspects of it that I LOVE but a lot of the work I was doing I wasn’t passionate about.
While I didn’t completely drop it from my roster, I did severely slim down the contracts I took, sticking with things that I was truly passionate about.
It’s OK to change your mind, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Travel writing FAQs
What is the average travel writer salary?
Unless you’re a staff writer for a big publication, getting a “salary” as a travel writer is not likely something that will happen.
In most cases, you’ll be paid by project (or piece) or by word (submitted or published, depending on the publication). Payment of $300-$400 per article isn’t uncommon for a seasoned travel writer but newer writers can make closer to $100-$200 per article.
Where can I find travel writer jobs?
Finding freelance jobs for travel writing can be a bit of a challenge. In a lot of cases, you’ll want to pitch travel publications stories or become a staff writer. The more and better you write, the more jobs you’ll get.
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